More important

Grady proudly displays his home-grown vegetables, June 2016.

Grady proudly displays his home-grown vegetables, June 2016.

“It’s bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children’s health than the pediatrician.” — Meryl Streep

“Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.”almost every mother who ever lived

Pediatricians are important in fighting children’s diseases, to be sure, but it might be even more bizarre that we somehow generalize their crucial responsibility to the far more complex business of nurturing health in our kids.  Wellness is much bigger than being free from illness. To rear happy, hardy youngsters, it really does take a village, and the produce managers are among a large cast of players– but parents usually have the all-important roles of directors.

That said, kudos to Streep for promoting organic gardening long before it was as widespread as it is today.  For children lucky enough to take part in growing at least a bit of what they eat, it’s a wonderful experience on many levels, as Grady can tell you.  I imagine that particular squash and that cucumber tasted better to him than they would have if he didn’t watch them grow and then participate in the joy of picking them off the vines.

Of course, those healthy eating habits may not last (I’m told I used to love freshly-caught fish when I was a toddler and we lived in Hialeah, Florida) but surely kids are more likely to keep eating what they learn to enjoy at a very young age.  And it’s never to late for us to acquire a taste for nutritious food.  Or so I tell myself every time I munch on raw cauliflower.

Do you like vegetables?  Which ones are your favorites?  If you have any secrets for healthy seasonings, please share them for those of us who are still working on loving veggies. And even if you’re past the stage of spending time with the pediatrician, it might be wise to make friends with your local produce manager. It couldn’t hurt.



  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    I do love salads but have grown tired of most commercial salad dressings — too salty or they just taste odd to me. My ‘go to’ recipe for homemade dressing lately is very simple and works well on veggie or pasta salads. I got it from a friend who was a Life Sciences high school teacher all her life (what the heck, why don’t they still call it the real name ‘Home Economics’? Isn’t knowing how to economize important anymore?!). Here’s the recipe: 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/2 C light olive oil, 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, a little bit of salt & pepper. Shake and let set to blend for 30 minutes.

    Another version that I love is made with tarragon vinegar: 1/4 C tarragon vinegar, 1/2 C light olive oil, 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon McCormick onion powder (yes, good quality onion powder makes a difference), salt & pepper. Note that there’s no sugar in this version. When I was a teenager, I hated salads until my mother came up with a tarragon vinegar dressing I liked so much that I actually requested salads. I was thrilled when I experimented with the above red wine recipe and discovered that substituting tarragon vinegar resulted in the old recipe my mother put together 50 years ago!

    • Judy, thanks so much for taking the time to share these recipes with us – they sound wonderful. I generally never eat salad dressing at all (which some people tell me is why I don’t like salads 🙂 ) but once, at an Asian restaurant, the salad came with a fabulous peanut-flavored dressing that I just had to love. Based on that single experience, i have hope that I will learn to love others, and I think that yours would be high on the list of likely candidates for me to try.

      It’s a shame they had to change “home economics” to “life sciences” — maybe to encourage males to take it? or perhaps to make it sound more important to cynics who have always underestimated the incomparable good that happens in the best home environments? I once butted heads with a (temporary) library director who refused to consider home skills as an asset in the applicants for children’s library aide. Though this employee was to work completely under my supervision, he refused to allow me any say in the job description and selection. He totally discounted any unpaid experience, whether in the school, home, church or community, which infuriates me to this day. His idea of what skills would help an assistant work effectively with children showed that he was totally clueless. Needless to say, I was relieved when he left. 🙂 But I digress…

  2. Carolyn

    Love the picture of Grady.I have had some tomatoes and cucumbers. Taste wonderful! Right now it is so hot nothing looks good. I just keep giving them water, we did have a little rain this week. I don’t gave a big garden,just can’t keep up with all there is to do. I love all the summer vegetables. Hope you all have a good week end and things are getting better. Hugs and love .

    • Hi Carolyn! Hope you all had a nice 4th. How well I remember the hot Julys and Augusts of Memphis. I hope that you will get some more rain and some cooling temps soon. We are doing OK. In his own way, Jeff continues to be strong, amazingly determined to live life as usual even as his weight drops and his breathing gets more and more difficult. Keep us in your prayers. Thanks for the hugs and love — they help! 🙂 Love to you and Terry.

  3. I love Meryl Streep but had not heard that quote. We didn’t have fresh veggies as kids. It all came out of a can and was horrendous. I learned to love them late in life and often make a meal out of chunks of fresh red cabbage, celery, red bell peppers, and cucumbers. I don’t bother with a salad unless I’m going out for dinner. Love my veggies fresh, not cooked. Unless it’s zucchini bread or spaghetti squash under spaghetti sauce. Who knew that all that was good for you? We sure didn’t. At the end of the second world war, our parents were happy with anything edible. We were taught to shut up and eat up because there might not be more. Some long for the good old days, I’m happy with the days we have. And fresh veggies. 🙂 Giant squishy hugs to you.

    • Marlene, you are right to recognize that we have it much easier than past generations. And how easily we forget that fresh produce was not available year-round as it is now. Speaking of which, I do love fresh red cabbage, especially in salads and stir fry. My mother would heartily approve of your preference for raw vegetables; she’s been trying to convince me for years to eat as much as possible RAW and preferably picked immediately before eating (rarely possible except during the days when I used to eat at their table when I would visit them in the summer and their garden was at its best). Thanks for the hugs — they always help! Hope you have a great weekend.

  4. The sweetest little tyke around. Your heart must be full every time you lay eyes on him. I raised two sons: one who loves fruits and vegetables and one who prefers anything white: rice, bagels, sourdough bread, mashed potatoes. Where did I go wrong? I grew up eating bland vegetables in Canada where fresh greens were scarce outside of summer, but I love what my father grew out back: tomatoes and carrots. I’ll eat them raw or cooked.

    • Alys, I love tomatoes best of all the veggies, I think. No surprise there since I’m told they are actually fruits. 😀 Carrots are probably my second-most-consumed veggie; they are so humble and available and crunchy. I love them cooked with potatoes, too. As for what our kids like, IMO after years of watching my own and other people’s kids, I believe that often it has nothing to do with where we went wrong, and everything to do with individuality, a stubborn thing in each of us, for better or worse (hopefully mostly for better). The best we can do is make sure kids know what real food tastes like, and teach them to read labels. 😀

  5. Gak! Gak! Raw cauliflower? You ARE a good sport!
    Good morning, Julia!
    Back when my son, Erik, was struggling to both eat healthy and save money, he came up with a delicious yet simple one-pan meal:
    Cut up chicken, and sauté with Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning, add fresh green beans, and steam for a few minutes. I just love having vegetables instead of bread, pasta, or rice as my starch. So much tastier!
    Enjoy the weekend!

    • Susan, would you believe I’ve never heard of Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning? But it SOUNDS good! I love starches, but find that I feel MUCH, much better if I eat fruits and veggies. I’m trying to train myself to pay close attention to how I feel after I eat various foods. That’s one way I managed to lose my former taste for (most) fast foods. But I know I’ll probably never give up carbs all together. Speaking of which, I have a leftover croissant waiting for me in the kitchen…wish you were here to share it with me! 😀

      • Linda Shoun

        I’ll try to remember to get you some next time I go to Penzey’s Spices in Richmond. They have ALL kinds of spices and seasonings. I’ve not tried their Northwoods yet.

        • Wow, there is a whole store of Penzey’s? And that close by? I learn such fun things on this blog! Thanks Linda!

        • Linda! I just got a package a couple of days ago with some Penzy’s Northwoods seasoning in it, which I have already enjoyed twice! Do I have you to thank for that delightful surprise?

      • A croissant? Mmmm.I’d probably fill it with (more) butter, or Nutella, or this great chocolate-coconut-peanut-butter I’ve found and … where were we?
        Oh! Back to home-grown: I’m enjoying snapping off a sugar snap pea or cherry tomato as I walk past them in their containers on my deck, and popping them right into my mouth. This weekend I sautéed day lilies (in butter & olive oil). Summer is great!

        • Yum, all those croissant toppings sound great…but I also love to eat them totally plain, if they are the really good buttery French kind. Wow, you can grow sugar snap peas in containers? How do you keep the birds and squirrels from getting your cherry tomatoes? I finally gave up on actually getting to eat any that I grew myself. Day lilies? I think I had heard they were edible, but never knew anyone who actually cooked them. Do they get squishy and turn brown? or do they keep their color as greens do?

  6. Grady looks so happy and proud holding them. 🙂 So glad to read this, Julia.
    Here’s a secret I have not shared with many – I have been trying veganism for the last six months (though not into that cult-like vegan activism/extremism). After three years of intense research (of course after my father’s passing) I have just given up ALL animal products and 98% of processed foods. Just eating fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. The results are awesome and I feel better and lighter day after day. I don’t impose it on my family but as the kitchen manager I can have some control on what they eat. Luckily my kids love vegetables if the curries are tasty.

    • Bindu, I am so happy you are discovering the joys of eating natural foods. I lost my taste for many processed foods years ago, when Matt was a toddler and we eliminated additives from our diet and saw a tremendous improvement in his focus, behavior and overall functioning. I did a lot of cooking “from scratch” in those days and discovered some convenience foods weren’t really all that convenient once I learned to cook with real, whole ingredients. However, there are still a few guilty pleasures I have a hard time letting go. I never had much of a taste for meat of any kind, so I eat very little of that and would have no problem giving it up, but the dairy products are such a huge part of my diet (cheese, yogurt, nonfat milk) that I would have a much harder time giving those up. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us — it’s an added motivation to keep moving the eating habits in a healthy direction. It really does make a tremendous difference in my overall energy level and well-being when I make better choices.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, I think that little “happy gardener” takes after his great grandfather! I so love summer for the bounty of vegetables we have available. I love tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, more corn, butter beans, peaches, just to name a few! 💛 I’ve enjoyed the other comments, favorites, and even recipes. I suppose my favorite universal seasoning is McCormick’s Salad Supreme. There is a wonderful pasta recipe on the label, probably for 10 years now. My favorite pediatrician would surely be Dr. Vann….no surprise there! Great post, my friend! 🍅🌽🍑🍒🍇🍓🍉🌽😎

    • Sheila, I’m most envious of the corn and butter beans. I do buy them fresh occasionally at the grocers, but will always remember how much better it was to eat them just a few hours after being picked less than a mile away. I’ll have to look for Salad Supreme. I’ve found that seasoning blends are quite versatile. Lemon pepper on boiled eggs, for example, is not anything I’ve seen suggested, but I tried it and found it’s a shortcut path to a deviled-egg taste.

      I had forgotten that Dr. Vann was a pediatrician. Of course that makes sense from what I know of him through you. Pediatricians have to have big hearts since the work-to-pay ratio is much more demanding than in many of the specialties and sub-specialties. Hope you are having a wonderful Wednesday! The weeks just seem to zoom by. I’m going through gallons and gallons of iced tea this year. No complaints, though. 🙂

  8. MaryAnn

    Julia, When money was tight, as I was growing up, Mother made fabulous meals from freshly picked vegetables! For a while we had a garden from which she gleaned treasures. Later on, we would take a fun trip out to Suisun Valley to pick veggies at a farm, priced very low. We had NO idea that she was stretching the dollar so well! We just thought is was delicious! Mom was able to serve very tasty meals all my growing up days & hosted huge feasts at her home for years. May be the reason I prefer veggies over the rest of the meal. Last night, I had summer squash, yellow-crooked-neck squash & zucchini for dinner!!! Yum! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it! (Paul loves to go to Larry’s Produce in Suisun Valley. Along with his plethora of fruit that he devours, he bought the squash for me, knowing how I love it!)
    Grady will be a healthy eater because of growing his own! How precious!!!

    • Mary Ann, no wonder you are aging so well. Feeding kids fresh veggies is an investment that has long-term benefits. I really believe that. Larry’s must be the legendary produce stand we used to hear so much about while we lived in NorCal. I can’t remember if we ever went there, but I do remember the orchards of the Gold Country near Placerville– gorgeous– and also the huge fields of artichokes and other veggies that used to grow across the street from our neighborhood. I can’t say I love squash but I do manage to enjoy zucchini it if it’s lightly cooked hibachi-style with lots of bean sprouts and onions. We hope that Grady will keep his enthusiasm for growing things. He phoned the other day and as soon as I said hello, he told me in a polite but business-like tone that he wanted to speak to PaPa. Jeff said he was giving him the report of what he had picked that day. Apparently there was a single okra pod ready to be picked, and that was quite newsworthy to a nearly-3 year old. 🙂

  9. LB

    Isn’t Grady adorable!?!?
    The quotes are perfect, and you are so right about the crucial responsibility, not so much of the pediatrician, but of the food, the sleep, the activity. Too many of us lose track of the benefits of these three things.
    Cauliflower? Not my fave, but today I made a fresh from my friend’s garden cucumber / onion salad. Yum!

    • LB, great idea on the triad of essentials. Maybe you can re-design the food pyramid to be the “Wellness pyramid” because I think it could be successfully argued that all three of those are equally important to overall health. I’ll remind myself of that next time I’m tempted to be a couch potato burning the midnight oil while snacking on– you guessed it– Cheez-its! 😀 Thanks for the compliment about Grady; of course, I am president of his fan club so I agree.

  10. Wow! Look at Mr Grady in his big boy hat 😀 That’s so darn cute. Lucky him for having fun in the garden. I think that may be less and less so these days. Vegetable Gardens are a bit of work so I just find it easier and depending on the time of year, cheaper to hit the markets and support a local grower. But as a kid, we planted a huge garden at my grandpas house. I remember loading up the trunk of our Desoto with everything till it was overflowing. We’d be crunching on carrots all the way home. I don’t think we ever grew squash though, we wouldn’t even had known what that was, LOL. xo K

    • Drew was a hat person from babyhood on (here’s a photo of him wearing a hat he INSISTED we buy for him at the straw market in the Bahamas) and it looks as if he is working on converting Grady to the practice. You are lucky to have garden memories, because you’re right, it seems to be a thing of the past. But hopefully that’s changing with community gardens in urban areas and more people learning to garden in the backyard. Drew and Megan were lucky enough to buy a home with a large lot and raised beds already installed in their back yard. That made it a lot easier to get started successfully. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything much by going without squash in childhood. Though I know I would get an argument from lots of people on that one. I tend to love the starchy stuff like corn, potatoes, peas, etc. but I used to love eating radishes out of the garden. You and Alys do some healthy eating for me the next week or so. I’ve been indulging my sweet tooth way too much and need to get back on track. 😀

      • Oh honey, I haven’t been eating very healthy either. On holiday, I ended up either ordering pasta or pizza and then of course a glass of wine. Most nights we topped it off with a cappuccino and a shared desert. All caution was thrown to the wind and so now even though we walked miles everyday, I am Butterball Boomdee :/ I might need a bigger cape. Drew and Megan have the perfect place to raise kids then. I hope Owen and Grady are enjoying life to the max. ❤

        • Isn’t it amazing how we can walk so much on vacation and still gain weight? But it’s totally appropriate, in my opinion, to have times of celebration where we don’t count calories or worry about a few indulgences. It will be back to the normal routine soon enough. I’m trying hard to jump-start my metabolism, which seems to have taken a year or two off, and I keep trying to add relatively healthy snacks to my pantry. I’m thankful it’s easier to do that than it was even 10 years ago.

          • Sounds like a good plan Julia. If there’s even an inkling of bad snacks laying about, they’re the first thing to get eaten. I would rather just not bring them home, and I don’t. So Mr B. stops and gets his own chips or whatever because he knows I don’t buy it. But now, he’s trying to loose a few too. So maybe he’ll resist junk food. I think you already live on practically nothing and have a fantastic figure! I’m totally serious J, do not loose a single pound, you’ll disappear. xo K

            • HA! You are way too kind, no wonder I love to be around you!! I am in no danger of disappearing anytime soon. I gained all the weight I was planning to gain on that cruise that never happened, plus a bit more. I figure it’s nature’s way of protecting me against becoming too skinny if I get so old I ever lose my appetite. Seriously, though, I’m at my maximum-ever weight now (even including during pregnancy), and I can really feel it in how tired I get. I can’t tell much difference in how I look when I gain weight, though my clothes get uncomfortably tight, but I can really tell it in how tired I get and how my joints feel at the end of the day. So for me, weight control is way more about how I feel than how I look. Of course, it’s probably true that the kinds of junk that put the weight on me might be so low in nutrition that it’s the food content, not the weight itself, that makes me feel tired and less than 100%. In either case, I need to think “fresh”and “natural” and “nourishing” instead of “salty” or “sweet” or “creamy.” I’ll let you know how that goes. 😉 Meanwhile I’m so happy you are like Mr. Rogers and love me just the way I am!!!

              • Many times in the Rockies, I’d wished I had a bag of nuts in my purse, LOL. One squirrel totally faked me out by running towards me then when really near, took a hard left turn and kept on going, LOL xoxo ❤ You're too hard on yourself, but aren't we all. Alys and I had a snack at 2:30 AM after scrapping!

                • That squirrel must have been warned at the last minute by the telepathic squirrel grapevine. If he spotted Alys from a distance he probably mistook her for me and ran away terrified. “Oh, no, that’s the lady with the bad trail mix!!!” 😀 A 2:30 a.m. snack after scrapping sounds SO wonderful. It was great to see all of you via Skype tonight!!

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